Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2001-01-31 Reporter: Editor:

Arms Probe? Off with your Head!

Publication  Mail & Guardian
Date 2001-01-31
Reporter AFP
Web Link

OPPOSITION parties and political analysts across the board have slammed South Africaís ruling ANC for trying to control a probe into alleged corruption in the governmentís massive arms buying programme, saying parliament's oversight role over government had been placed under threat.

Democratic Alliance deputy leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the ANCís firing of senior MP Andrew Feinstein, coming after the exclusion of Judge Willem Heathís Special Investigations Unit from the probe, "creates a pattern of political beheading".

Political analyst Steven Friedman pointed out that legally the decisions to exclude Heath and to demote Feinstein could not be faulted but that it created a bad impression.

"We have here actions which have been continually taken within the letter of the law ... but the perception is being created people are being the judge in their own court and politics is about perception."

"As long as there is a situation where it appears that the governing party will look after its own, public trust is going to be undermined, and it's got to be a long-term problem for the ANC and for the system," he said.

Feinstein, head of the ANC group on the parliamentary public accounts committee, continued to call for a probe into the R43bn deal after President Thabo Mbeki dismissed allegations of graft as a "campaign to discredit our government."

"One is entitled to presume that the ANC is trying to get control over the way in which this probe is carried out," said Richard Calland from South Africa's Institute for Democracy.

Parliament's decision to launch an investigation followed charges of high-level corruption among ANC politicians in awarding the contracts late in 1999. But after issuing its call for a probe in November, the ANC went on to the defensive.

Mbeki bluntly stated this month the parliamentary committee was "wrong" in assuming there was a need for an investigation, while Deputy President Jacob Zuma said it had "misdirected" itself.

In Heath's absence the probe is being handled by the public protector, the auditor general and the directorate for serious economic offences but there are opposition rumblings that these bodies can be seen as pro-ANC. - AFP

With acknowledgement to AFP and the Daily Mail and Guardian.